Sarazanmai 3: "...But It's Not Meant To Be"

Ep 3. Changing point of view! And we’re going to get right into it:

Enta (thinking): I have a crush on Kazuki

Kazuki doesn’t suspect anything, and they all go home. But the next morning, Enta’s sister and grandma inadvertently torment him with “kiss” references, at least partly due to the fish named “kisu”. (I wonder how they’re going to make up for this pun in the dub.) I’m reminded that Sarazanmai is trying to go for a light tone on most of this stuff.

(Enta spits out his drink. His grandma effortlessly catches the stream of liquid in her cup.)

We also get a fun Japanese language moment here with Enta’s older sister, who says

"He might kiss me on our date today."

The way she says “kiss” here, キスされちゃう, has a sort of “oh no!” connotation in it, which in this case is a sort of a coy fake-innocence. (Okay, that’s not a great description, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to make my own fish pun.) The next sentence continues in this vein, where she says “I might kiss him first!” but with the same 〜ちゃう ending. I can’t think of a direct equivalent in English; I’d probably go with “What if he kisses me on our date today? What if I kiss him first?” with that same cutesy-innocent tone.

This is all perfectly normal Japanese, not something specific to Sarazanmai. What is specific is the prevalence of words starting with “sara”, including this episode’s catchphrase, さらっと, which the subtitles translated as “just like that!”. I’m impressed by how much wordplay the writers are able to work into all of these episodes, and I’m a little sad that I’m probably missing out on a bunch of it. (In case you weren’t keeping track, we also have the idol “Sara-chan” and her catchphrase “Good Sarakku”, plus “sara” literally meaning “dish” and therefore referring to both the “wish dishes” and the thing on top of some kappa’s heads.)

The actual episode is about Enta being sad that Kazuki quit the soccer team, and how that’s mixed up with his romantic feelings. But it also touches on how Kazuki quitting the soccer team isn’t the only thing that’s changed—his little bro says he used to be a lot more carefree too. (My adult brain is screaming talk to him talk to him TALK TO HIM.) Instead, we get him fantasizing vividly throughout the episode.

(Fantasy Kazuki punches out one of the boys Enta got into a fight with.)

I got very distracted by the pink-and-orange jacket, which I thought was specific to fantasy-Kazuki for the whole episode. (Orange is Enta’s color, after all.) But it turns out the real Kazuki has one too.

Anyway, we have this episode’s kappa zombie, which

"There are women flying away all over Asakusa."

…dangit, Sarazanmai. You’ve now put “women” in the same category as “cats” and “boxes”. What are you doing?

I stopped and examined this reaction, and considered an alternate category: “salarymen” (just men), or “convenience store clerks”, or something like that. And I think those aren’t as bad, but that’s because those aren’t groups that are culturally objectified in the same way. It’s also an ordering issue—the first sentient group you show a kappa zombie abducting is “women”.

This show.

(The criminal boyfriend vanishes from Enta's sister's photo.)

This was the worldbuilding thing I sat up and took the most notice of. After defeating the kappa zombie, the original human faded out of existence. Retroactively, even. What does this mean? What happens if it’s someone the boys knew beforehand—do they keep their memories? I guess there’s a chance we’ll see a scene next time where Enta asks about his sister’s boyfriend and she says “what boyfriend?” But there’s also a chance this will just never get mentioned—perhaps it’s just how the world works, not to be questioned.

Ominous Voice to Police Officers: "I hope I don't need to remind you that betrayal means death."

Speaking of worldbuilding, apparently there’s a shadow organization that mines desires, of which the two police officers are just pawns. (*cough* Little Witch Academia *cough*) Also, it’s…otter-themed? At least in the subs we’re getting otter puns.

Anyway, we don’t get much information on this organization besides that it exists, but they’re causing a pretty big amount of collateral damage in their desire extraction. Like, come on: a good parasite does not kill its host. Oh well.

And then we get back to Enta.

Kazuki: "The soccer club made you do it on a dare, right?"

Enta: "I'm in love with you, Kazuki!"

I was ready to cheer here and then I realized I got duped by fantasy. That implies something interesting, though: “Kazuki’s” line about the soccer club is also what Enta is fantasizing. That is, we’ve gotten confirmation that being gay is not okay in this society. It’s therefore “natural” for “Kazuki” to offer Enta a way out.

My friend L (from last time) was pissed at this soccer club line, mentioning how besides being a “societally acceptable out”, it (1) brushes aside Enta’s creeper behavior from before the kiss reveal, which is coalesced with having the feelings at all, and (2) came while Enta was trying to confess. I…didn’t get the same impression. Just like in Ep 1 Enta decides to unconditionally accept Kazuki’s dressing as Sara-chan, here “Kazuki” is “forgiving” Enta of his transgressions. Not in a good way, not at all, but…given his life up until now this is the best he can do. And I’d be harsher on the show doing that if it weren’t Enta’s fantasy all along. It’s still frustrating that the show chose to represent a culture that hasn’t made any progress here, but it’s also sad that even in Enta’s fantasies this is the best Kazuki reaction he can hope for. He doesn’t even imagine an “I’ve always loved you too.”

(Enta does imagine a fair amount of “because we’re the golden duo” from Kazuki, which I think means that he still doesn’t want to fully admit that his feelings go beyond that. His earlier fantasies all end with childish running around, too; it’s only this last one that actually ends with a kiss.)

So, the show’s not showing a better society; it’s showing a kid in a society, presumably similar to present-day Japan, that wouldn’t accept him. That’s not an invalid story, but…shouldn’t the show be acknowledging that? That things wouldn’t have to be this way? (Again, inspired from conversation with L just after watching Ep 2.) And really, I’d be more willing to go along with this if the show weren’t trying to have it both ways—mostly re: the cat in the previous episode, but also the implicit “the idea of this couple is intrinsically funny” with the amusement park, which I admit to glossing over last time.

It doesn’t help that the only other “gay” “relationship” we’ve seen so far is the two cops, who seem to be Evil. I know there aren’t that many characters at all, but, like, it’d be so easy to counterbalance this one with something healthy (Kazuki’s uncles or something). But I guess “healthy” isn’t at all the goal of this show, or Ikuhara in general from what I know…and now we’ve looped back to L’s criticisms.

At least we get to find out why Kazuki wants a wish dish for Little Bro.

(Enta wheels Haruka in his wheelchair back into the hospital.)

I don’t get why it had to be some kind of reveal, though.

OH YEAH. The title of the episode is “I Want To Connect, But It’s Not Meant To Be”. I’ve heard similar phrasing before…in Madoka, also concerning gay relationships. I guess it’s probably a well-known euphemism in Japan, but gosh is it more weight on the “enforcing the status quo” side.

I guess I’ll leave it at that. But I hope the show stops going “look at this! isn’t it ridiculous?” and then following it up with “actually, you should be sympathetic.”